The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Nintendo released Super Mario Kart in 1992, and it single-handedly
defined what we expect from silly weapon-based kart racers. Since then
similar games have come and gone; we’ve seen the genre transition to 3D
and jump online, but kart racers have all been drafting behind a series
that has barely changed in almost two decades. This is where United
Front Games rolls onto the track. Like a rookie hotshot, it’s fast,
flashy, and has an unorthodox style. We’ve seen elements of
player-created content and online community building in games before,
but not yet in a kart racing game like this. Finally, it feels like the
genre is evolving.
The aspect of this racing game that drew me in
the most wasn’t the racing – it was the customization. I got a kick out
of turning my racer into a top hat-wearing dinosaur, and then a bubble
wrap monster with tufts of grass for hair. While my car might have
started out looking like a muscle car beauty fresh from the paint shop,
it slowly morphed into the most dangerous steam-powered cardboard box
ever to finish a race. ModNation’s customization tools allow you to
control the color and texture of your skin, the style of your kart’s
seats and mirrors, and the stickers covering every inch of your
character and car. I felt like I was only limited by my creativity and
imagination. If you’ve ever thought about painting your own vinyl
figure, you’ll likely spend a lot of time tinkering in ModNation’s
When I first brought my souped-up shoebox onto the
circuit, I was impressed with the originality United Front Games brought
to the racing formula. The pre-made tracks are fun obstacle courses,
but there are plenty of shortcuts to hunt out as you do your laps. It
didn’t take long before I was power sliding around, building up my boost
meter, and ramming opponents off the road. You’ll even encounter a bit
of a strategy when deciding how to use the weapon pods. If you pick one
up, you can use it right away and release a small lightning attack or
EMP burst that will screw with the person in front of you. However, if
you wait until you’ve picked up three weapon pods, you can unleash a
more powerful attack that could disable every racer on the field, or
warp you ahead of the pack. Of course, if you hold on to your weapon for
too long you risk losing it when the racers behind you slap you with
Anyone who enjoys the insanity of kart racers will have a
ball here. Unfortunately, ModNation still manages to run over the same
pothole that plagues most kart racing titles. The chaotic nature of the
game’s weaponized karting constantly makes you feel cheated. Even an
experienced racer might run three perfect laps and then get knocked out
of first place five seconds from the finish when a rainbow of lightning
disables the engines. Your boost meter can be used to project a
temporary shield, but a full meter will only give you a few seconds of
safety. Since the last half-laps of the later courses tend to turn into
an invasion scene from Mars Attacks with all the cannon fire
flying through the air, it becomes impossible to avoid every attack.
Playing against online opponents doesn’t make the races feel any less
ruthless, but at least you’ll know that the people in front of you will
be just as upset about the blue fire you shove up their tailpipe as you
were when they did it to you 20 seconds earlier.
Even with the
craziness on the course, the pre-made tracks are only a taste of what
you’ll be able to build yourself with ModNation’s track editor. I can’t
remember how many times I said, “I gotta try something like that,” after
seeing what the developers had made while racing through the career.
Unfortunately, you will have to complete some particularly difficult
challenges during the single-player races if you want to unlock the
coolest track parts. If you don’t have the patience for that (or don’t
feel like getting your hands dirty building the track yourself), the
ModNation community will likely start producing a wealth of original
content once it becomes familiar with the tools. With this much
satisfying content, Mario will find some tough competition the next time
he hits the track.
Email the author Ben Reeves, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.